The phonological function of vowels can be maintained at fundamental frequencies (fo) up to 880 Hz [Friedrichs, Maurer, and Dellwo (2015). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 138, EL36–EL42]. Here, the influence of talker variability and multiple response options on vowel recognition at high fos is assessed. The stimuli (n = 264) consisted of eight isolated vowels (/i y e ø ε a o u/) produced by three female native German talkers at 11 fos within a range of 220–1046 Hz. In a closed-set identification task, 21 listeners were presented excised 700-ms vowel nuclei with quasi-flat fo contours and resonance trajectories. The results show that listeners can identify the point vowels /i a u/ at fos up to almost 1 kHz, with a significant decrease for the vowels /y ε/ and a drop to chance level for the vowels /e ø o/ toward the upper fos. Auditory excitation patterns reveal highly differentiable representations for /i a u/ that can be used as landmarks for vowel category perception at high fos. These results suggest that theories of vowel perception based on overall spectral shape will provide a fuller account of vowel perception than those based solely on formant frequency patterns.

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